Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Anyone listened to “Slipstream” yet? I picked up Bonnie Raitt’s first CD in seven years at the check out line in Whole Foods and it’s worth the wait. I love her voice, her lyrics, and the music. There is nothing not to like about this awesome CD.

Reel Girl rates “Slipstream” ***HHH***

Read Full Post »

Artemis strikes again

If you’ve been following Reel Girl, you know I’ve been comparing Katniss Everdeen to Artemis ever since I read the book.

On the Ms. Blog today there is a post about the musician Dar Williams who I love. Her new CD “In the Time of Gods” was inspired by the Greek gods and goddesses.

Here’s what she says:

“I like Artemis the best. I’ve met that woman, and she is reviled in our society. She lives in the woods and she feeds squirrels and she has a shot gun and she hates your guts. I love her.”

Does that sound like Katniss or what?

Read the interview here. I can’t wait to hear the CD.

Here’s to hoping we run into more goddesses in books, on screens, and in music in 2012.

Read Full Post »

When my daughter was seven years old, she turned me on to Taylor Swift. Every time the car radio scanned to a Swift song, she’d call out from the back seat, “I like this!” So last night when Swift sang “Mean” at the Grammys, I got chills. Swift’s original lyrics and radiant performances make her a great role model for girls. She shows kids that, with some creativity and perseverance, you can write your way from victim to hero.

In “Mean” Swift sings:

I bet you got pushed around
Somebody made you cold
But the cycle ends right now
Cause you can’t lead me down that road
And you don’t know, what you don’t know…

Swift’s “Mean” has become a beloved anthem for girls around the world. I think the lyrics resonate with kids in part because the song takes on the false belief that permeates so much of kidworld. Especially for girls, being mean is too often seen as cool or powerful. As you get older, in college, cruelty can continue to be equated with being smart, masquerading as a cynical or skeptical brand of superior intelligence. Whereas being kind can be seen as weak, uncool, or even dumb. Too many grown-ups go on to maintain this warped view.

In contrast, Swift directly challenges the mean-cool dogma with her sweetness, her songs about how she loves her mom, and the devoted way she treats her fans. Swift is also a brilliant lyricist who writes openly about her humiliations and, again and again, turns them into triumphs.

What humiliations? Many involve love and relationships, but some are less personal, more public, and have everything to do with her career.

At the 2009 MTV music awards, after the 19-year-old Swift won Best Female Video for “You Belong to Me,” rapper Kanye West stormed the stage, claiming the award should’ve gone to Beyonce. Both Swift and her mother were reportedly crying backstage. Later that night, when Beyonce won her own MTV award for Video of the Year, she asked Swift to take that time speak (which was cool of Beyonce and a good moment for females supporting each other publicly.)

Swift wrote a song about Kanye West and forgiveness called “Innocent.”

A year later, at the 2010 Grammys, Swift performed a duet with her idol, Stevie Nicks. She sang off key. A well known critic tore her apart, saying that Swift should reconsider her career as a singer.

It was about that experience that Swift wrote “Mean:”

You have pointed out my flaws again
As if I don’t already see them
I walk with my head down
Trying to block you out ’cause I’ll never impress you
I just wanna feel okay again…

And I can see you years from now in a bar
Talking over a football game
With that same big loud opinion
But nobody’s listening
Washed up and ranting about the same old bitter things
Drunk and grumbling on about how I can’t sing…

The chorus goes likes this:

Someday I’ll be living in a big ol’ city
And all you’re ever gonna be is mean
Someday I’ll be big enough so you can’t hit me
And all you’re ever gonna be is mean
Why you gotta be so mean?

But last night she sang:

“Someday, I’ll be singing this at the Grammys.”

Congratulations Taylor, you rock.

Click here to see Taylor Swift singing “Mean” at last night’s Grammys. Show this to your kids.

Here’s my eight-year-old daughter dressed as Swift for Halloween:

Here are all the lyrics to “Mean.”

You, with your words like knives
And swords and weapons that you use against me
You have knocked me off my feet again
Got me feeling like I’m nothing
You, with your voice like nails on a chalkboard
Calling me out when I’m wounded
You picking on the weaker man

Well you can take me down with just one single blow
But you don’t know, what you don’t know…

Someday I’ll be living in a big ol’ city
And all you’re ever gonna be is mean
Someday I’ll be big enough so you can’t hit me
And all you’re ever gonna be is mean
Why you gotta be so mean?

You, with your switching sides
And your wildfire lies and your humiliation
You have pointed out my flaws again
As if I don’t already see them
I walk with my head down
Trying to block you out ’cause I’ll never impress you
I just wanna feel okay again

I bet you got pushed around
Somebody made you cold
But the cycle ends right now
Cause you can’t lead me down that road
And you don’t know, what you don’t know…

Someday I’ll be living in a big ol’ city
And all you’re ever gonna be is mean
Someday I’ll be big enough so you can’t hit me
And all you’re ever gonna be is mean
Why you gotta be so mean?

And I can see you years from now in a bar
Talking over a football game
With that same big loud opinion
But nobody’s listening
Washed up and ranting about the same old bitter things
Drunk and grumbling on about how I can’t sing
But all you are is mean

All you are is mean
And a liar, and pathetic, and alone in life
And mean, and mean, and mean, and mean

But someday I’ll be living in a big ol’ city
And all you’re ever gonna be is mean, yeah
Someday I’ll be big enough so you can’t hit me
And all you’re ever gonna be is mean
Why you gotta be so?..

Someday I’ll be living in a big ol’ city (Why you gotta be so?..)
And all you’re ever gonna be is mean, yeah (Why you gotta be so?..)
Someday I’ll be big enough so you can’t hit me (Why you gotta be so?..)
And all you’re ever gonna be is mean
Why you gotta be so mean?

Read Full Post »

Have you heard of Garfunkel and Oates?

They are hilarious. Here’s the link.

Read Full Post »

At Warren Hellman’s memorial service, Heidi Clare, the fiddler for his band the Wronglers, told the crowd about the first time they played “The Big Twang Theory” just a few days earlier in Warren’s hospital room.

“The doctors gave him some hard news,” Clare said. “He was sitting in a chair, banjo in hand. He listened patiently, and waited for them to stop talking. Then he said, ‘And now I have something for you.’ And we played this song.”

The Big “Twang” Theory by Warren Hellman and Colleen Browne

We were drifting in eternal darkness

Free from joy or pain

When someone plucked a banjo

And the universe began

That single note it amplified

Then sparked and formed our sun

From which burst forth the planets

One by one by one


Pickers, pluckers, plonkers born

To strum, perchance to croon

Drifting through the cosmos

Playing out of tune

The next to come, from space and dust, were

Old-time music bands

With fiddles, guitars, mandolins

Made from these cosmic sands

Then all the country music

The writers could compose

Was created in that instant

And sung through someone’s nose


Great constellations formed

From the Carter Family’s works

Over there big black holes

Where old-time music lurks

Some found the sound appalling

An agony to hear

A true appreciation

Needs at least a case of beer


That single plonk of the banjo

Sparked the music universe

We thought it would get better

But it’s only getting worse

A humongous group of banjos

Strumming old-time tunes

Playing on the planets

Playing on the moon


One thing that’s for certain

It’s been a cosmic trip

Riding through the ether

On this old-time music ship

Read Full Post »

Warren Hellman was one of the smartest, coolest people on the planet.

Extensive obituaries for the Bay Area investment banker and musician are all over the internet (locally at SFGate and the Bay Citizen which he helped found) with headlines like “The Billionaire Who Loved Bluegrass” and “Renaissance Man in a Cowboy shirt.” Posts and articles detail his many contributions to the Bay Area go on and on and are still incomplete. They include contributions like helping to reform the city’s pension, funding the San Francisco Free Clinic, heading the board of Mills college and trying to take it co-ed  (being met with signs that read: “Warren, go to hell man) creating an underground lot in Golden Gate Park, setting up an endowment for aquatic sports at UC Berkeley (he played water polo), and creating the Hellman Fellows Program to support tenure track faculty at UC campuses.

Most of all, Warren Hellman is now known for founding and completely funding the wildly successful, fun and free (for all of us) annual Hardly Strictly Bluegrass music festival in Golden Gate Park.

Why was Warren Hellman so generous? It made him happy. He wasn’t interested in collecting art or buying fancy cars. He enjoyed spending his time, money, and brain cells creating projects, solving problems, and helping communities thrive. He often said Hardly Strictly Bluegrass was his definition of heaven on earth. When asked about the festival by Forbes Magazine in 2006, he said: “How could you have more fun than that? What the hell is money for if it isn’t for something like that?”

His band is called the Wronglers. He spent much of the last year of his life recording and touring with legend Jimmie Dale Gilmore. You can get their CD “Heirloom Music” here.

One of my favorite memories of Warren is being in his office, listening to a song and laughing and laughing. The song is called “The Ballad of Sarah Palin and it’s by Cup O’ Joes. I am posting the lyrics below and the song on youtube. You can listen to it here.

Good-bye Warren. THANK YOU. I miss you.

Ballad of Sarah Palin (Just be an Alaskan)

Sarah, Sarah, oh my Sarah Palin,

You’re a mother, a leader, and Alaska’s fair maiden,

I know you hear people calling your name,

But you abandoned Alaska,

I think that’s a shame.

Sarah Palin,

You were the Governor of Alaska,

Rove knew you were up there,

And told McCain he should tap ya,

So you burst on the scene with your stunning good looks,

But red lights started flashing when you tried to take away our books,

If you’d opened one and read it,

Well, then you could seeee,

That Africa’s a continent and not a countryyy.

They mocked you and called you Caribou Barbie,

Now you’re the lovely new face of the Republican Party,

With your suits, your shoes, your Tina Fey glasses,

Your folksy ‘You Betchas’ sure play to the masses.

Right from the start, you had people attack you,

Said you didn’t know nothing about the questions they asked you,

They said in Alaska, you didn’t play by the rules,

That your daughter was pregnant and still in high school,

Some hinted you didn’t know Bagdhad from Zurich,

And you were mishandled by both Gibson and Couric,


Sarah, Sarah, oh my Sarah Palin,

You’re a mother, a leader, and Alaska’s fair maiden,

I know you hear people calling your name,

But you abandoned Alaska,

I think that’s a shame.

Supporters were nervous for your first debate,

Afraid you’d think NAFTA meant New York and LA,

Then you lost the election,

We thought you were done,

Secretly hoped you’d turn tail and run,

And you did, you went home, back to Alaska

We breathed a sigh of relief, thought we’d seen the last of ya,

I know it must’ve made you irate,

When it was alleged that Todd ran your state,

Now Levi’s in Playgirl and all over the place,

Sarah, forgive him, set out a Thanksgiving plate

You quit on Alaska and wrote a new book,

Going Rogue sold millions, got you a new look

There you were talking and talking on my box,

With the help of that clever old Fox,

You told the people that we’re in big trouble,

And some of them begged, “Lead us out of the rubble,”

But with you at the helm, our trouble will double,

So please, go back to Wasilia and live in your bubble!


Sarah, we’ll  miss you but not very much,

Please do us a favor and don’t stay in touch,

Commune with the grizzlies, gun clubs and such,

Go back to Wasilia and live in your Hutch.

So sit back, relax, enjoy your fame

Sarah, Sarah, please don’t come again,

Sarah, Sarah, don’t come back again

Oh please, Sarah Palin,

Just be an Alaskan,

Just be an Alaskan.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the San Francisco Free Clinic, the Bay Citizen and the San Francisco School Alliance. The family also requests a donation of blood or platelets to a local blood bank.

Read Full Post »

Is Eminem too controversial to win the Grammy for Album of the Year?

Over the years, Eminem has won 13 Grammys but he’s never been recognized outside of the rap genre. This year he was nominated in ten categories including Song of the Year and Record of the Year, along with 8 other nominations. He walked away with just two wins: Best Solo Rap Performance and Best Rap Album.

Eminem rocketed to fame over ten years ago as a rare successful white rapper, with songs that included controversial lyrics about raping his mom and killing his girlfriend. He disappeared for several years, then staged a comeback in 2010 with his brilliant album “Recovery.”

“Recovery” is nothing less than mesmerizing. For me, it’s like listening to Bob Dylan; every time I put it on, even after listening a million times, I hear something new. It’s pretty fascinating to witness Eminem’s transition from Slim Shady who sang about all kinds of violence against women to his recent hit “Love the Way You Lie” which shows a deeper perspective on the issue. That song also features Rhianna, well known as a victim of violence from boyfriend Chris Brown. Rhianna has been pretty silent on the events that happened to her, making her decision to show up in this song, in some ways, her most significant commentary.

With “Recovery,” as always, Eminem brings issues to the forefront many people would prefer to ignore or pretend don’t exist. Sexual violence against women happens every day. It hasn’t gone away; Eminem’s music, in every stage, forces listeners to recognize this epidemic exists.

Here’s something I wrote about Eminem for the Chronicle in 2000

I Prefer My Misogyny Straight Up.


Wednesday, July 12, 2000

I LIKE hip-hop music. I know I’m not supposed to because so many of the songs have horrifyingly violent, sexist or homophobic lyrics.

Hip-hop is also the most innovative thing to happen to music in a long time.

When you compare hip-hop to its biggest rival for domination of the music charts – the corporate-created Backstreet Boys and N’sync, and pop-pincess clones Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera – rappers/ producers like Dr. Dre and Method Man are infinitely more talented. Hip-hop is captivating precisely because it tells a story, overlaying lyrics on top of familiar backbeats, creating songs that are at once new and familiar.

The story hip-hop tells may be disturbing or degrading, but that’s no reason to shun it. As art has always done, hip-hop describes our times, exposing a sometimes ugly world- of drugs, sexism, poverty and violence- that middle-class America may prefer to hide away.

In the ’60s, Bob Dylan enraged those who upheld the status quo. Today, we have a whole new slew of musical poets.

Just like they did with Dylan, the older generation asks, “How can you listen to this awful music? There’s no melody! And those lyrics!”

Baby boomers protest that THEIR songs were about peace and love, while hip-hop celebrates killing and humiliates women.

But surely rock ‘n’ roll stars have never been known for their kindness to women. The Rolling Stones cranked out hits like “Under My Thumb,” “Brown Sugar” and “Little T & A,” sneered through lyrics like “You make a dead man come” and glorified violence in songs like “Midnight Rambler.”

Sexual violence in lyrics wasn’t limited to bad boy bands either. Old peaceniks Jerry Garcia and Neil Young sang songs like “Down by the River” about murdering a lover. Ever since Elvis shook his pelvis, music has shocked, and the older generation just didn’t get it.

Critics charge that hip-hop crosses a line, most recently fingering rap sensation Eminem, who sings about raping his mother and slicing up his wife in front of their daughter.

Freud (looking like Archie)Freud 

But Freudians would tell you Eminem’s mother rage and sexual fantasies are pure id, the uncensored subconscious struggling for self expression. The views of Sigmund Freud, of course, are infamous for his distorted views on women, though that doesn’t stop us from studying him in our best educational institutions. Nor should it.

Hip-hop may be more shocking and graphic than your run-of-the-mill shapers of Western thought, but I prefer my misogyny straight up. Movies like “Pretty Woman,” in which Julia Roberts plays a prostitute with a heart of gold, may be prettier packaging, but if you think women are “hos,” just tell me so.

Tales of sex and violence aren’t limited to male artists. “Goodbye Earl” by the Dixie Chicks and Macy Gray’s “I Committed Murder,” two recent hits by women artists, both detail violent killings with unrestrained glee. Angry young women muttering obscenities include Alanis Morissette, Courtney Love and Ani DiFranco.

Nor is disdain for men by women artists a new fad. Sylvia Plath, the late poet and darling of English lit majors, famously compared male genitalia to turkey necks and gizzards. Never one to shy away from sex or violence, she once said she “eats men like air.”

The difference, of course, is when women say these things, it really is just art. Because men are the guys with power, their expressions of domination, violence and sexual exploitation contribute to a culture where women really are forced into limited categories of queens or hos, where masculinity is defined by how many babes you score, and where women often are left powerless and exploited.

But sanitizing music is just shooting the messenger; it can’t transform a sexist culture. Warning stickers on CD covers are no protection from the deeply entrenched social realities that hip-hop pushes right in your face.

Women won’t feel threatened by lyrics when they overcome real inequities and get real power. Women will then be too busy making art and making deals to waste time wondering if they should side with the radical right, clamoring to keep obscenities out of Wal-Mart.

Read Full Post »

Thank you Peggy Orenstein for writing the brilliant book Cinderella Ate My Daughter. Every parent should read this new, excellent analysis of the ubiquitous princess kid-culture and its various mutations in the world of grown-up women.


Orenstein, a NY Times journalist, mom, and writer takes on and deconstructs two (so annoying!) messages every parent hears if she dares to challenge the monarchy of these frothy creatures.

Myth number one: we’re just giving girls what they want!

Orenstein responds with a brief history of marketing and information on child brain development– some major points paraphrased here:

Pink Children were not color-coded until early twentieth century. Before that, babies wore all white, because to get clothing clean, it had to be boiled. Boys and girls also used to all wear dresses. When nursery colors were introduced, pink was more masculine, a pastel version of the red, which was associated with strength. Blue was like the Virgin Mary and symbolized innocence, thus the girl color. When the color switched is vague. Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Alice in Wonderland all wear blue. Sleeping Beauty’s gown was switched to pink to differentiate her from Cinderella.

Baby doll In an 1898 survey, less than 25% of girls said dolls were their favorite toy. “President Theodore Roosevelt… obsessed with declining birth rates among white, Anglo-Saxon women, began waging a campaign against ‘race-suicide.’ When women ‘feared motherhood,” he warned, our nation trembled on the ‘brink of doom.’ Baby dolls were seen as a way to revive the flagging maternal instinct of girls, to remind them of their patriotic duty to conceive; within a few years, dolls were ubiquitous, synonymous with girlhood itself. Miniature brooms, dustpans, and stoves tutored these same young ladies in the skills of homemaking…”

Princess When Orenstein herself was a kid, being called a Princess, specifically Jewish-American, was the worst insult a kid (and her family) could get. How had a generation transformed this word into a coveted compliment?

Disney Princesses as a group brand did not exist until 2000. Disney hired Andy Mooney from Nike. He went to a Disney on Ice show and saw little girls in homemade princess costumes. Disney had never marketed characters outside of a movie release and never princesses from different movies together. Roy Disney was against it, and that’s why, still, even on pull-ups, you won’t see the princesses looking at each other. (How’s that for a model for girls in groups or female friendships?) Princesses are now marketed to girls ages 2 – 6. Mooney began the campaign by envisioning a girl’s room and thinking about a princess fantasy: what kind of clock would a princess have? What type of bedding? Dora and Mattel followed suit with Dora and Barbie princess versions and then along came everyone else.

Toddler Clothing manufacturers in the 1930s counseled department stores that in order to increase sales they should create a ‘third stepping stone’ between infant wear and older kids clothing

Tween Coined in the mid-1980s as a marketing contrivance (originally included kids 8 – 15)

More on tweens, toddlers, girls and boys: if there is micro-segmentation of products by age and gender, people buy more stuff. If kids need a pink bat and a blue bat, you double your sales. Orenstein writes: “Splitting kids and adults, or for that matter, penguins, into ever tinier categories has proved a surefire way to boost profits. So where there was once a big group called kids we now have toddlers, pre-schoolers, tweens, young-adolescents and older adolescents, each with their own developmental and marketing profile…One of the easiest ways to segment the market is to magnify gender differences or invent them where they did not previously exist.”

SeoWoo and Her Pink Things by JeongMee Yoonhttp://www.jeongmeeyoon.com/aw_pinkblue.htm SeoWoo and Her Pink Things by JeongMee Yoon 

One major fallout of gendering every plaything? “Segregated toys discourage cross-sex friendships.” Boys and girls stop playing together. Orenstein writes about the long-term effects: “This is a public health issue. It becomes detrimental to relationships, to psychological health and well-being, when boys and girls don’t learn how to talk to one another…Part of the reason we have the divorce rates we do, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking behaviors, sexual harassment is because the lack of ability to communicate between men and women.”

Orenstein argues: “Eliminating divorce or domestic violence may be an ambitious mandate for a pre-school curriculum, but its not without basis: young children who have friends of the opposite sex have a more positive transition into dating as teenagers and sustain their romantic relationships better.”

Myth #2: that princess stuff is just a phase– she’ll grow out of it!

Princesses are marketed to girls 2 – 6 years old; there’s something very creepy and dangerous about making these kids victims of billion dollar industries. Kids brains are literally being formed, they’re malleable. So this little phase is helping to create a brain that lasts forever.

Scientists have pretty much moved on from the anachronistic, simplistic debate of nature versus nurture. It’s now understood that nature and nurture form and create each other in an endless loop. Your experiences influence your wiring.

For example, small kids can make all kinds of sounds to learn languages. Lise Eliot, author of Pink Brain, Blue Brain is quoted by Orenstein: “Babies are born ready to absorb the sounds, grammar, and intonation of any language, but then the brain wires it up only to perceive and produce a specific language. After puberty, its possible to learn another language but far more difficult. I think of gender differences similarly. The ones that exist become amplified by the two different cultures that boys and girls are immersed in from birth. This contributes to the way their emotional and cognitive circuits get wired.”

“It’s not that pink is intrinsically bad, it is such a tiny slice of the rainbow,” Orenstein writes. To grow brains, kids need more, varied experiences, not fewer.

Phases don’t vanish, they mutate.

Orenstein’s book traces how the real life Disney stars/ girl princesses (i.e. Lindsay Lohan, Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, Hilary Duff, Miley Cyrus etc) attempt to make their transitions from girl-princesses into adult ones; or more crassly, from virgin to whore. Orenstein writes it’s impossible to commodify one end of the spectrum and not the other, and there are so few models of healthy female sexuality out there. She writes, “Our daughters may not be faced with the decision of whether to strip for Maxim, but they will have to figure out how to become sexual beings without being objectified or stigmatized.” All that early training for girls to focus incessantly on their appearance lasts a lifetime. What happens when these girls try to grow up? Orenstein writes girls learn, “Look sexy, but don’t feel sexual, to provoke desire in others without experiencing it themselves.”

How does this emphasis on dressing up and attention for appearance affect kids as they grow? Stephen Hinshaw, quoted from his book The Triple Bind, explains, “Girls pushed to be sexy too soon can’t really understand what they’re doing…they may never learn to connect their performance to erotic feelings or intimacy. They learn how to act desirable, but not to desire, undermining, rather than promoting, healthy sexuality.”

The basic message I got from this book: the issue is not pink or princesses, but to give your kid more experiences not less. Remember– many colors in the rainbow!

(1) Encourage and reinforce cross-gender play. If your daughter is playing with a boy, acknowledge it, reinforce what they’re doing. You are the biggest influence in your kid’s life, you’re not ‘just another person.’ Talk to your kids pre-school teachers and administrators about encouraging cross-gender play. There is lots in this book about how teachers are not trained in this area at all and miss opportunities to help brains grow.

(2) Remember, your kid is not a small adult. She has a different brain. Help that brain grow! If your son picks up a My Little Pony, buy it for him instead of yet another car. It won’t make him gay! It will make him smart!

(3) Your kids are watching you! Again, they are not just little people with fully formed minds. If you criticize your appearance (or another woman’s), how you treat your partner, how you eat, she takes note.

Read Full Post »

Girls and hair, girls and hair, girls and hair! Toys marketed to girls– more often than not– involve hair. Very long hair. Barbie, of course, is well known for her waxy blond locks. Strawberry Shortcake and her friends Plum Puddin’ and Lemon Meringue wear stiff rectangles of hair that stretch to their knees. Even toys that don’t make you think about hair, say horses, get transformed into “My Little Pony” with girls shown on TV brushing their animals’ flowing manes and curly, pink tails.

Rapunzel Braiding Friends hair Braider

The latest addition to the plethora of hair based toys is Disney’s Rapunzel doll, sorry, I mean “The Braiding Friends Hair Braider” that “lets your little lady easily braid the Rapunzel doll’s hair.” This toy goes with the new Rapunzel movie, now called “Tangled” because the guys who run Hollywood decided they didn’t want to award a female character the title role. The abundance of toys marketed to girls and focused on grooming relentlessly reinforces that what’s important for them isn’t what their bodies can do, but how they appear.

This is why I was excited to see that Willow Smith, the nine year old daughter of actors Jada and Will, has a new video out called “I Whip my Hair.”

Yes, it’s abut hair. But sometimes the most effective way to create change is to make use of our current obsessions in order to alter them. This video is about what hair can do, not how it looks; which of course translates to what’s important is what Willow can do, not how she looks. Willow dances around her school, swinging her hair, obviously enjoying not only her singing and dancing skills, but the way it feels to move her body. She is also enjoying being looked at, not in an objectified way but she is celebrating being a dancer and singer and yes, being a star. In the video, she is admired by both boys and girls watching her– no small accomplishment for a girl when men too often decide it’s bad marketing to put her in the title of a movie.

Watching Willow jump around her school, past the rows of lockers is reminiscent of the well known Briney Spears catholic school girl video where she’s got her shirt tied up, baring her midriff in the cliched sexual fantasy. Ten years later, I feel like we’ve made some progress. Willow isn’t wearing sexualized clothing. She is wearing some make up– including what looks like white mascara and rhinestones– but she looks like she’s having fun with it, playing with costumes, not made up in a serious, creepy Jon Benet Ramsey way.

Willow Smith

Not only that, but Willow is a girl of color enjoying her hair– sadly, a radical statement. Even girls restricted to decorating their locks on TV usually aren’t wearing cornrows. Chris Rock did an excellent documentary called “Good Hair” about black women, girls and the ingrained, internalized racism, passed on from moms to daughters. Rock’s film is funny and analytical, but Willow uses a different tactic. By putting out a video that gets over 7 million YouTube hits in one week, instead of complaining about our culture, she changes it.

Feminsiting.com’s Lori Adelman comments reports on the video:

What many may not know is the meaning behind “Whip My Hair”. In a recent interview with MTV, Willow Smith explained the inspiration behind her lyrics:

” ‘Whip My Hair’ means don’t be afraid to be yourself, and don’t let anybody tell you that that’s wrong. Because the best thing is you.”…Willow has a message for you, too, buried in the chorus between exuberant if repetitive directives to “whip your hair back and forth”: “Don’t let haters keep me off my grind/ keep my head up/ I know I’ll be fine.”

Willow Smith is ReelGirl’s Star of the Week.

Check out her video here.

Read Full Post »

Just back from Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, the free three day music festival in Golden Gate Park. Patti Smith is one of the all time best performers I’ve ever seen. She is a total rockstar, swaggering on stage like Mick Jagger or Jim Morrison, so in control of everything, with her callbacks and clapping, she played the audience like an instrument. When she covers songs you think you know well, they sound like nothing you’ve heard before; she slows it all down, savoring every word. Her “Play With Fire” was intense and beautiful with two stanzas of her own lyrics inserted in the middle. If anyone recorded it (I saw you all!) please post. Smith told everyone how lucky we were to live here and then she recited the prayer of St. Francis, reminding the audience to “Be happy, work hard, love one another.” Listening to her under the swaying eucalyptus, the fog wisping in around us, was a great San Francisco moment.

Elvis Costello and his band the Sugarcanes may have been my favorite this year, probably the tightest band I saw. They had great energy.

Emmylou Harris closes the show ever year and her voice is so incredibly pretty. Yesterday, when I saw Guy Clark I thought his lyrics and voice are just as beautiful as hers. Yesterday, I also saw Richard Thompson who was rocking out more than expected and great. I heard Joan Baez sing “Diamonds and Rust” which is one of my favorite songs. She also did her hilarious Bob Dylan imitation. After Baez, I saw the incredible Gillian Welch who amazes me everytime she performs.

Right as Elvis Costello was finishing playing, about six miles away in one of America’s most beautiful ballparks, the Giants won the NL West pennant. When the announcer gleefully told the audience about the victory, many already knew because they’d been clutching radios to their ears, reciting the score to each other inbetween sets all afternoon.

Shivering in the dark and fog, we got in our warm car. To avoid traffic after Saturday night’s turtle pace, we drove home along the Great Highway. After passing by dense hills of red and green succulents, suddenly there was the foamy ocean, white and bright as a light, my husband saying, “I can’t believe this is right here!” Back in Potrero Hill with the stunning view of downtown and the Bay, we could see all the lights of traffic crossing the bridge, everyone traveling home; we were grateful to be already there.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: